• Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In our house, hub-Russ has officially been named ‘the cactus keeper,’ according to me. It’s only for a short while, four to six weeks max, but it carries a lot of responsibility. What does this mean, exactly?
So glad you asked! It means I want to force my Christmas cactus to bloom. (I also want to force Russell to buy me a new computer for Christmas, but we’ll save that topic for another day.)
I’d heard the term before, “forcing blooms,” but it was with plant bulbs such as crocus and paperwhites, not cacti.
So, I did some research, since my cactus hasn’t bloomed in many years. I went to the source where you can find out anything about anything at any time: the Internet.
Little did I know that there are many “holiday” varieties of cactus; Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, to name a few.

This particular cactus holds great sentimental value for me. It was given to me as a gift, in a tiny, perhaps six-inch pot, one Christmas from my dear friend, Susan Meyers. At that time, we were in the same writer’s group in Georgetown.
I’m guessing that was in 1997 or 1998. That means this cactus is almost fifteen years old! OMG! Of course, you can tell by my enthusiasm that I just love this plant to pieces, just as I do Susan.
Though we have both moved away (Russell and I to Wilmington and she and Blue to Summerville,) we did meet up two years ago at a book signing in Charleston. And guess what? I hope we’ll be doing the same thing soon at the Lowcountry Women’s Author’s Luncheon.

 You might be asking by now, how does one force a cactus to bloom? The procedure is all about timing: very technical and exact. What it’s not, is that comic-feature where a woman was told she had to talk to her plants to get them to bloom—and she does this, saying, “Grow, d--- you, grow!” each and every day.
Now that’s NOT what I’m talking about! Instead, this involves placing the cactus in a dark closet twelve hours out of each day, and limiting the amount of water you give it. This causes the cactus to go into a dormant period, forcing little blooms to develop. When they appear – again, after four to six weeks – the cactus is moved back permanently to the great room where it gets normal amounts of sunlight, just as before. The flowers, papery pinkish-reddish tendrils, will continue blooming for a couple of weeks, if we’re lucky.

You might also be asking why I need Russell’s help with this project. It’s not because I wish I was taller – that’s for changing light bulbs in paddle fans – (though I do still wish I was taller.) But now, I wish I was also stronger. You see, this cactus weighs a lot! I am seriously guessing twenty pounds. And that was after repotting it twice.
They like to be potbound, so each time I’ve gone up only a small size. It must be true (about liking to be potbound) because the plant is thriving and has now spread out to twice the width of the current pot. I love this houseplant – the segmented pointy leaves, the sheer mass, the shape and color. I have a lot of house plants, but this one is the star of the show.

That’s why I’m counting on it to bloom on or about Christmas Day. This year I have decorated to the hilt because it’s an extra special holiday. It will be Katie and Michael’s first married Christmas, and we’ve invited Michael’s family for dinner.
Also, Kelly, Chuck and our granddaughters will be here. I put up two Christmas trees, the traditional one in the great room and the other one for the grands: inside my office with girly things hanging on it – shoes, purses, feather vests, ballerinas, whimsical garland, even one pink, glittery nutcracker. In fact, I have my entire collection of nutcrackers out and about, my Mexican nativity set, pillows, dolls, plates, creches, Santa décor, etc.
It was a challenge to get it all up and out, especially for Russell, since he moved all of those heavy boxes from the garage, all by himself, right after Thanksgiving.
But we are totally decorated now. I’m not only counting down the days to Christmas, I’m counting down the days ’til the Christmas cactus blooms!

Ann Ipock “Life is Short, I Wish I Was Taller” amipock@ec.rr.com www.annipock.com



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